Genevieve Patterson held the small device over a piece of paper on the table, and, after a brief flash, a mechanical voice began reading what was written there.
"Ooh," said about a dozen nursing students from Japan who had crowded into the room at the blind rehabilitation unit at the Augusta Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers.
The first-year nursing students from Takarazuka City Hospital School of Nursing will tour other Augusta hospitals and meet next week with nursing students from Augusta State University and Aiken Technical College. Takarazuka has been Augusta's sister city for more than a dozen years, and nursing students from there have occasionally done exchanges with Augusta.
Yuki Hirakawa, 18, explained the difference between Japanese and American hospitals by holding her arms far apart.
"Big," chimed in Kozue Sasaki, 19, meaning the VA dwarfs what they have seen at home.
They were also impressed with the number of sophisticated devices.
"High technology," said Mayura Chikazwa, 18.
The students oohed when blind rehabilitation unit chief Paul Whitten showed off the closed circuit TV unit that can take type, blow it up to enormous size to make it easier to read and even create new contrasts, such as flipping from black-and-white to a yellow background with blue letters.
The students, who mostly spoke through translator Noriko Akamatsu of Augusta, share many of the same motivations as their American counterparts. Ms. Hirakawa wants to be a nurse because "she wants to be helpful to people,"
Charlotte Price, chairwoman of the ASU Department of Nursing, is excited about her first-year students getting to play host to the Japanese students at a breakfast next week.
"There is that universal desire to care for people that is just who we are as nurses," Dr. Price said.
Ms. Sasaki noticed the emphasis on training and rehabilitation.
"In Japan, in the hospital, it is more concentrated on treatment," she said through Ms. Akamatsu.
Nor were the wounded soldiers they passed lost on them.
Ms. Hirakawa "saw lots of soldiers in the unit just because the war is going on," Ms. Akamatsu interpreted. Ms. Hirakawa was impressed with their care but "she wants to have more peace."
Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The city of Augusta has had a sister-city relationship with Takarazuka, Japan, and Biarritz, France, according to the mayor's office. Although funding for the program was cut in 2006, the exchanges have continued through more informal channels.